It can be heartbreaking for someone to watch their loved one walk around aimlessly for hours on end. Because of their memory loss, they might think that they need to get to work even if they have been retired for years. They might ask to go home when they are already home. Or they may be wanting to see someone – like a deceased spouse or family member.
People living with Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia can be disoriented and easily become lost and unable to find their way back, so it is important to find solutions to wandering that keep them safe and still maintain their dignity.
Motion detectors can be a great way to notify you so your loved one does not leave the house through an outer door. A less discreet but more cost effective solution is to hang bells from the door handles throughout the house so you know where they are or where they are heading within the home.
If you have a garden, secure it with a fence and difficult to reach locks so that your loved one can enjoy exercise and fresh air outside. A circular path with points of interest like bird feeders, flowers, a water feature, or a bench can help make their time outside more enjoyable.
Reassure your loved one if they feel lost, agitated or abandoned. Refrain from correcting them but try to redirect their focus. Check to make sure that their basic needs are met: are they thirsty? hungry? or need to use the bathroom? Sometimes these simple needs can trigger anxiety and a need to wander.
If they are determined to leave, have them dress appropriately for the temperature. Make sure they have on shoes. Take an umbrella, hat, gloves or sunglasses depending on the weather. Accompany them, reassure them, and direct their attention, so you can bring them back safely. A brief walk around the block may be enough to divert their attention.
A good preventative step would be to notify your neighbors and local shops that your loved one has dementia – they can act like a second set of eyes in your local neighborhood.
To ease anxiety, make a crisis plan. Have an updated list of contacts and phone numbers to quickly notify friends, family, and neighbors if a loved one goes missing. Write a list of possible places that your loved one might wander to – former employer, previous house, family, friend’s houses, church, or a favorite restaurant.
If a loved one does wander off alone, call 911 immediately. Have a recent, close-up photograph and up-to-date medical information to provide to the police when they arrive.
Wandering is a big concern for many at-home caregivers. If your loved one cannot stay safely within your home, it may be time to consider moving them to a memory care community that can care for their unique needs.
Azura Memory Care and Assisted Living has created innovative memory care communities that engage and stimulate memories for our residents in a secured environment. If you are fearful that your loved one may wander off, contact one of our memory care communities. We are happy to give you a tour of our innovative memory care features focused on safety and living a fulfilling life.